by Guy Blasi
WALSENBURG- John Mall High School began a unique program this year called “bell-to-bell.” In an effort to improve student scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and on college entrance ACT’s, Huerfano School District Re-1 has decided to go with this innovative program: all students receive instruction along with the time necessary to complete assignments during the school day. There is no homework with the bell-to-bell school model.
“I am unaware of any other Colorado school district using bell-to-bell,” said Bert Borgman, Associate Commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) in an interview from his office in Aurora. The CHSAA is the official governing body of high school athletics and other extra curricular activities among high schools such as debate and band competitions. “We don’t have any problem with a school district implementing this type of program as long as it applies to all students, and is not being done just for the benefit of the athletes,” he said.
Last year, the entire state of Delaware dedicated a week for all of its high schools to try the model. Delaware had several reasons to try bell-to-bell including a budget crisis and an eight percent cut in teacher pay. The model is designed to allow students to get adequate rest so they have more focused energy during the day and to allow for concentrated study as well as extra curricular activities such as sports.
John Mall’s CSAP scores for last year are below the state’s averages in most areas. For example, last year’s sophomore class scored at 57 percent in reading while the state average was 66. In writing, sophomore CSAP scores were 26 percent while the state average was 47. In math, John Mall sophomores scored 11 percent while the state average was 30. Several John Mall seniors last year scored well enough on ACT college admission tests to be admitted to colleges and universities throughout the state and nationwide.
One of John Mall’s teachers has elected to resign as a result of this policy decision because the teacher felt homework was needed for the subject being taught. Some wonder whether a policy of no homework will be detrimental to the John Mall graduates who go on to higher education where homework and research is a must. If bell-to-bell continues at John Mall High School, will its students, as incoming college freshman, not have the skills and/or discipline to handle the demanding class work that college demands?
Next week, the Huerfano Journal will be seeking answers to this and other questions about bell-to-bell education at John Mall High School. This story will be in response to concerns of several parents who want to know the pros and cons of this innovative approach to education.